What the heck is Pickleball?
Is there a sport that I can play with my children, my mother, my neighbor, and my boss? Is there a sport that builds hand-eye coordination, is good for moderate exercise but doesn’t require oodles of athletic ability? Is there a sport that I can play anywhere that has just a little bit of space? Yes, yes there is. Let me introduce you to the great game of Pickleball.
Pickleball is best described as a combination of ping pong, badminton, and tennis. Similar to tennis you can play in a singles or a doubles match. Players stand on either side of the net and use a paddle to hit a polymer ball with holes (think a heavier Wiffle ball) over a net.
This sport was invented in 1965 in Washington state. A few families got together to play badminton, but they couldn’t find the shuttlecock. Improvising, they used a Wiffle ball and lowered the badminton net. It is hard to hit a Wiffle ball with a badminton racquet and so the families fashioned paddles out of the plywood on their storage shed. Just like that, a new sport was born.
Pickleball has surged in popularity in recent years. Roughly 2.8 million people in the United States play Pickleball. The number of Pickleball courts has surged to over 5000. Fortunately, you don’t need a Pickleball court in order to play the game. A net and some sidewalk chalk are all you need to get started.
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How To Play Pickleball
If you are not playing on a Pickleball court, then you will need to use sidewalk chalk or tape to get the dimensions right. The dimensions are the same as those for a badminton court and are the same for both singles and doubles play.
The court measurement is 20’x44′ and the net should be hung at 36″ at the ends and 34″ in the middle. There is a non-volley zone known as the “kitchen” that extends 7′ back from the net on either side. There should be two service courts on either side of the net that are 10’x15′ and separated by a centerline. Please see the diagram below.
Once the court is set up, all you need to play is a paddle and a ball. Pickleball paddles are roughly twice the size of a ping pong paddle and the balls are roughly 3″ in diameter. All equipment can be purchased via sites like Amazon.
What Should You Wear To Play Pickleball
There are no special apparel requirements, but it is recommended that tennis shoes and comfortable exercise clothing be worn.
Here is a video that shows an easy explanation of the Pickleball rules.
The player who serves first will start from his right side service court. Both of his feet must be behind the baseline.
To start the game a player must strike the ball underhand and below the waist. The ball must go diagonally into the opposite serve receive box in the opponent’s court. The ball must clear the non-volley zone (kitchen) line and bounce once before the opponent can hit a return shot.
There is only one serve attempt unless there is a “let”. A let happens when a serve hits the net and bounces into the proper service court. The serve is then replayed.
The Return Shot
After the serve, the returning team or player can hit the ball only after it bounces one time. The return shot can land anywhere within the serving teams court. The serving team must then let the return shot bounce once before they can hit the ball back.
The Volley/Ground Stroke
After the serve and return shots, a volley can be played in the air and it is not mandatory that the ball bounce before it is returned. The ball can also be played as a ground stroke which is hitting the ball after only one bounce.
The non-volley zone is the court area within 7 feet on both sides of the net.
Volleying is prohibited within the non-volley zone.
Players can only hit a ball in the non-volley zone (kitchen) if the ball bounces there first. You cannot be in the volley zone and hit a shot in the air.
It is a fault if, when volleying a ball, the player steps on the non-volley zone, including the line.
It is a fault if, after volleying, a player is carried by momentum into or touches the non-volley zone, even if the volleyed ball is declared dead before this happens.
A player may legally be in the non-volley zone any time other than when volleying a ball.
The non-volley zone is commonly referred to as “the kitchen.”
A point can only be scored by the serving team.
Most games are played to 11 and the winning side must win by two.
When the serving team’s score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10) the player who was the first server in the game for that team will be in the right/even court when serving or receiving; when odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) that player will be in the left/odd court when serving or receiving.
Both players on the serving doubles team have the opportunity to serve and score points until they commit a fault *(except for the first service sequence of each new game).
The first serve of each side-out is made from the right/even court.
If a point is scored, the server switches sides and the server initiates the next serve from the left/odd court.
As subsequent points are scored, the server continues switching back and forth until a fault is committed and the first server loses the serve.
When the first server loses the serve the partner then serves from their correct side of the court (except for the first service sequence of the game*).
The second server continues serving until his team commits a fault and loses the serve to the opposing team.
Once the service goes to the opposition (at side out), the first serve is from the right/even court and both players on that team have the opportunity to serve and score points until their team commits two faults.
In singles, the server serves from the right/even court when his or her score is even and from the left/odd when the score is odd.
*At the beginning of each new game, only one partner on the serving team has the opportunity to serve before faulting, after which the service passes to the receiving team.
A ball contacting any line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve, is considered “in.”
A serve contacting the non-volley zone line is short and a fault.
A fault is any action that stops play because of a rule violation.
A fault by the receiving team results in a point for the serving team.
A fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of serve or side out.
Why You Should Teach Your Kids The Game
Pickleball is an easy game to learn. Your child will understand the basic rules of the game after only one session and will not be frustrated by a confusing rule set.
A child can become good at Pickleball in a short period of time. Have you ever tried to teach a child tennis? It is incredibly difficult for a child to hit the ball over the net and control a tennis racquet. The disappointment from not being able to hit the ball can lead to a defeatist attitude and your child quitting a sport.
In Pickleball, it is easy to hit the ball over the net and since the dimensions of the court are small your child will not become exhausted from running all over the place. Is there anything worse than running after loose balls in the stifling heat of Summer? I like playing this game, and because we don’t have to run too much we can play for a much longer period of time.
Pickleball promotes excellent hand-eye coordination. Your child can use the game as a gateway into the harder racquet and paddle sports. Once your child learns how to swing and strike they will gain the confidence to move on to other similar sports.
It is a great game for the whole family. Whether it is playing with grandpa, cousins, or parents, your kids will be able to compete and enjoy time outside with all the generations of the family. Pickleball is also a fun way to get your kids playing outside in the sunshine in the warmer months.
Can You Play Pickleball on a Tennis Court?
Yes- You will need to lower the center of the tennis net from 36″ to 34″ and lower the sides of the net to 36″. After that you will need to use sidewalk chalk or tape to create the Pickleball dimensions. Here is a good diagram of how to change the tennis court to a pickleball court. The blue lines are for the pickleball court and the red lines are the original tennis court.
Can you play Pickleball On Grass?
The answer is no, not really. Pickleball should be playes on a hard surface. You will not get the bounce you require from the grass.
Can You Play Pickleball on Clay?
It is not ideal. There are some clay surfaces that you can play on. These are the courts that have permanent lines. Pickleball will not really work on the red clay that you see on French Open types of courts.
Can You Play Pickleball On A Raquetball Court?
No. A standard racquetball court is only 40′ long. Standard Pickleball dimensions will not work on a racquetball court.
Can You Play Pickleball On The Beach/Sand?
No. There is not enough bounce.
Where Is There A Pickleball Court Near Me?
Here is a great resource. Just type in your zip code or city name.
Can You Play Pickleball With Three People?
There is a fun variation of the game where there are two people on one side and one person on the other. The team with two players must only return shots to the side of the court from where the serve originated. If they hit it in the wrong court they lose the point.